About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Syrah & Shiraz

It plain and simple terms - Syrah and Shiraz are both the same grape variety (originally), but the name gives you a clue to the 'Terroir' (location, climate, soil) that the wine has come from and the style in which it has been made.
Syrah is a red grape variety traditionally grown in the Rhone Valley of Southeastern France. Since then it has spread to many places around the world including California, Argentina, Chile and more recently, South Africa and New Zealand.
The place that has taken the grape to its heart is Australia. But in true Australian fashion due to climate, soil and culture the wines have taken on a new character and a new name.


The difference in Syrah & Shiraz stems from the different expression and reflection of the Terroir, vintage as well as other viticultural practices chosen. The Syrah/ Shiraz grape was once thought to have originated in Persia (plus many other romantic stories and journeys over the centuries), but recent research, DNA testing indicates the grape is a native of the Rhone valley, in France. Where it is best known for its usage in Hermitage, in the northern Rhone.
If an Australian winemaker was to label the wine Shiraz, you can expect a full-bodied, rich, ripe, fruit driven style of wine - the Australian way.
'Syrah' on the other hand tends to emphasize earth and spice and slightly more delicate notes due to a cooler and longer growing season found in France and New Zealand.
Definitely try them both; they each have their rightful place in your cellar and on your table and both are interesting and rewarding when matched with the right cuisine and when served in the correct Riedel stemware.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rioja - the region and the wine.

Rioja is a wine, with Denominacion de Origen Calificada (Protected designation of origin), from a region named after the Rio Oja in Spain, a tributary of the Ebro. Rioja is made from grapes grown in the areas of La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Alava. La Rioja is further subdivided into three zones Rioja Alavesa, Alta and Baja.
Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains, Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to protect the vines from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto) of which 85% is red, white (blanco) or rose (rosado).


Among the Tintos, the best-known and most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Others include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of 60% Tempranillo, up to 20% Garnacha, with smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component; with Tempranillo contributing the main flavours and aging potential; Garnacha adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavours and Graciano adding aromas.
A characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging, introduced in the early 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers. In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15-20 years or even more. Today most bodegas have shifted their winemaking focus to wines that are approachable sooner with the top wines typically aging for 4-8 years, though some still age longer.

Rioja reds are classified into four categories:
The first, simply labeled 'Rioja,' is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak.
'Crianza' is wine aged for at least two years, at least one year in oak.
'Rioja Reserva' is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year in oak.
Finally, 'Rioja Gran Reserva' wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What is Marsala?

Marsala is a wine produced in the region surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily. While the natives drink 'vintage' Marsala, the wine made for export is a fortified wine similar to Port. Originally fortified to ensure that it would last long voyages, it is made that way now due to its popularity.
The introduction of Marsala to a wider audience is attributed to the English trader John Woodhouse. The name came from the Greek warlord Marsala who believed his men fought with more flair by drinking a little before battle. In 1773, Woodhouse landed at the port of Marsala and discovered the local wine. Made using a process called 'in perpetuum', similar to the solera system used to make Sherry.


Marsala proved so successful in England, that Woodhouse returned and in 1796, began mass production. In 1833, entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio bought great swathes of land and set to making his own exclusive Marsala. Florio purchased Woodhouse's firm, and others, in the late 1800's and consolidated the industry. Florio is one of the leading producers of Marsala today.
Marsala is produced using; Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto white varietals. The wine is characterized by its fairly intense amber colour, and its complex aroma, 16-20% Alc.

Fine - has minimal aging, typically less than a year.
Superiore - is aged at least two years.
Superiore Riserva - is aged at least four years.
Vergine or Soleras - is aged at least five years.
Vergine or Soleras Stravecchio & Vergine or Soleras Riserva - is aged at least ten years.
Traditionally served as an aperitif; today it can be served chilled with Parmesan, Gorgonzola, and other spicy cheeses, with fruits, pastries, or at room temperature as a dessert wine. Marsala is frequently used in cooking, especially in Italian restaurants, e.g. Marsala sauce, one of the most popular recipes is Chicken Marsala; Marsala is also used in risotto recipes, and is used to produce rich Italian desserts such as zabaglione.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Alsace - the region and the wines.

Nestled between the Vosges Mountains and the German border, Alsace is France's most north-easterly wine region, its capital Strasbourg and its wine centre Colmar. One of the driest areas in France due to the influence of the Vosges; annual rainfall is as low as 500mm. The mountains also shelter the vines which are grown on both the plains and slopes. The steep slopes are also home to Grand Cru vineyards, the soils vary from alluvial to granite and schist.
Alsace is a French wine region, it has at various times in its past belonged to Germany, resulting in many of the white grapes grown are the same as those in Germany. By law, all wines must be bottled in the recognizable tall, tapered bottles called Flutes d'Alsace. Alsace was one of the first regions in the world to label its wines according to grape variety, rather than by where the grapes are grown, as done in other parts of France.


Wines of Alsace are primarily varietal; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Over 90% of the wines are white; Alsace also produces an excellent semi-bubbly known as Cremant d'Alsace from Pinot Blanc. Most wines are fermented dry as distinct from their German counterparts which are often sweet or off-dry. For this reason many wines achieve high alcohol especially Gewürztraminer which can reach 14%.

Alsace also produces speciality wines and some excellent Grand Crus. Grand Cru wines must come from one of four permitted grapes; Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. They must be from a single vineyard in the best location, a single vintage, have lower yields and pass a stringent quality test. Vendange Tardive wines are made from late picked grapes with much higher sugar levels from the same varieties as the Grand Crus in exceptional vintages.
Possibly the most expensive wines are the Selection des Grains Nobles which are made in the same way as the Vendange Tardive but with the effect of botrytis giving wines of enormous richness and complexity.

Related Articles:

Pinot Blanc
Pinot Gris
Vendange Tardive

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How long to keep a bottle of wine open?

There are lots of variables; the wine type, method of production, age and so on. There are all those considerations and exceptions but for 95% of the wine that people drink every day, the answer is pretty simple.
Three (3) days. At home, I can keep wines up to 3 days after the bottle has been opened. (This doesn't happen very often). Once a bottle of wine is opened, the oxygen in the air starts a process that softens the flavours and opens up the aromas. As this process (oxidation) continues over hours and days, the wine is ultimately made undrinkable; the trick is to drink the wine before this point.


You can (and usually should) refrigerate re-closed (open) bottles. You can buy wine-gadgets to create a slight vacuum in the bottle. You can get systems that put a layer of inert gas in the bottle. All these efforts are aimed at slowing the oxidation that will eventually destroy the wine. What makes the whole thing tricky is that wine will not immediately go from good to bad. Each person has a different point at which they identify the wine as having gone bad.
If you want to play it safe (and who doesn't), use the 3 day rule. Re-close and refrigerate the bottle for up to 3 days. With red wines, pull the bottle out from the fridge at least 1 hour before you want to use it so it will warm up to a temperature of around 18°C. With white wines or roses, depending upon the room temperature/ time of year, give the wine 10-15 minutes or so to get to about 8-9°C.
If you keep a wine for more than 3 days, you will be serving a wine that has lost most of the characteristics that are prized. The aroma will start to change and much of the fresh fruit smells and tastes will subside. At worst, you'll be serving a wine that has oxidized too much and has gone bad.
Dessert wines, Ports and Sherries can last longer but those are special cases (due to the methode of production, increased sugar levels and the higher alcohol content, which can act as a preservative and slow the process). Play it safe with the 3 day rule.